In Witchlanders, Lena Coakley has created a magical world where intense hatred between two races (the Witchlanders and the Baen) still rages after a war that cost dearly on both sides and where truths have been locked away that could provide healing and peace. Ryder (a Witchlander) and Falpian (a Baen) find themselves caught in the middle; each having to put aside the stories and hatred of their ancestors in order to find out the real truth.
I've got to admit, I was a little apprehensive when I picked up this book. I'm not a lover of 'witch' stories per se (for me they have their place in Disney stories and other fairytales as the evil beings, wreaking havoc on all that is good and pure - Glinda, the good witch in The Wizard of Oz being the only exception. But really, she was more fairy than witch to me...anyways, I digress). So, that was my perception going into this book.
Now, while this book does have covens, bone castings and really creepy catacombs (shudder), I'll admit that I thought Witchlanders was a fantastic fantasy story - a well imagined world, heart-stopping action and songs in the air that are full of magic made this a great read. A few more thoughts about why this book was so enjoyable:
1. Two strong male characters that aren't fighting over a girl! Hallelujah! What a breath of fresh air to follow two male characters as they searched for their destinies and make life decisions without it being about a girl.
2. I loved, loved, loved the world Lena created. I kept picturing it somewhere between the Himalayas with its ancient monasteries and simple villages and the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. There was also a great mix of recognizable (horses) and imagined (dreadhounds) creatures creating a feeling of familiar fantasy which, to me, makes it easier to feel lost in the story.
3. Rich backstory without it dragging the book down. Lena did a great job of revealing the history of the world she created through action and dialogue. I never once felt I was being given the dreaded 'history lesson'.